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Downton Abbey star Dan Stevens reveals the reason he quit TV sensation

Dan Stevens as Matthew Crawley in Downton Abbey
Dan Stevens as Matthew Crawley in Downton Abbey. (Image credit: ITV)

Actor Dan Stevens has opened up about leaving Downton Abbey after three years, admitting that some people thought he was "mad" to want his character, Matthew Crawley, to be killed off. 

The star, who appeared in the period drama between 2010 and 2012, told The Guardian (opens in new tab) that he asked the show creator, Julian Fellows, to write his character out of the series just before filming for season three began. 

Despite enjoying his time on the show, Dan has admitted that he was worried about becoming typecast and wanted to try his hand at other genres once his initial contract was up... 

"Nobody knew what Downton Abbey was going to become. There was no sense when we were making it that it would be the juggernaut it turned into. But there were definitely creative itches left unscratched, genres I hadn’t worked in. Three years were up, that’s what we’d initially signed up for, and the appetite to explore further was too great," he explained. 

Dan Stevens at Kensington Gardens

Dan played Matthew Crawley for three seasons of Downton Abbey. (Image credit: Getty)

But with another death already scripted for season three, Dan had to wait until the Christmas special in 2012 for his character to meet his untimely end. In a devastating storyline twist, Matthew was killed off in a fatal car accident while driving home from the hospital after visiting his wife Mary following the birth of their son, George. 

“It’s not something I expect people to readily understand,” Dan said of the departure. “Some admire it, others think I was mad: that the part was the greatest thing that could ever happen to me.”

Dan Stevens as John Dean in 'Gaslit'.

Dan Stevens as John Dean in Gaslit. (Image credit: Starz)

Of course, fans know that Dan has since gone on to star in some of the biggest movies and TV shows since his Downton departure, and has moved to the US with his wife and three children as his career continues to go from strength to strength. 

As well as appearing in movies such as The Guest, Beauty and the Beast, Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, and Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga, he has also appeared in shows like Netflix horror Apostle and FX series, Legion

Dan is currently starring in Gaslit, a new Starz drama that lifts the lid on the Watergate scandal. Dan plays John Dean, the top lawyer within the Nixon administration who eventually turned on the President, making stunning revelations that eventually lead to Nixon's downfall. 

Gaslit is now available on Starz (opens in new tab) in the US and Canada, and on the streaming platform Starzplay (opens in new tab) (available on Prime Video) in the UK and Europe, Latin America and Japan.

Downton Abbey: A New Era will be released in theaters on May 20 in the US and April 29 in the UK. 

Claire Crick
Claire Crick

Claire is Assistant Managing Editor at What To Watch and has been a journalist for over 15 years, writing about everything from soaps and TV to beauty, entertainment, and even the Royal Family. After starting her career at a soap magazine, she ended up staying for 13 years, and over that time she’s pulled pints in the Rovers Return, sung karaoke in the Emmerdale village hall, taken a stroll around Albert Square, and visited Summer Bay Surf Club in sunny Australia. 


After learning some tricks of the trade at websites Digital Spy, Entertainment Daily, and Woman & Home, Claire landed a role at What’s On TV and whattowatch.com writing about all things TV and film, with a particular love for Aussie soaps, Strictly Come Dancing and Bake Off


She’s interviewed everyone from June Brown — AKA Dot Cotton — to Michelle Keegan, swapped cooking tips with baking legend Mary Berry backstage at the NTAs, and danced the night away with soap stars at countless awards bashes. There’s not a lot she doesn’t know about soaps and TV and can be very handy when a soapy question comes up in a pub quiz! 


As well as all things soap-related, Claire also loves running, spa breaks, days out with her kids, and getting lost in a good book.